Sunday, November 19, 2006

CD Purchases!!!

I know I said I'd have the review of Jupiter by Cave In up already, but this week ended up being busier than expected. I did make time, however, to make it up to Newbury Comics in Salem, NH, and I purchased two metal classics in the process: Entombed's Clandestine and Rebel Extravaganza by Satyricon.

Entombed are extreme metal pioneers from Sweden that started off as straight-ahead death metal before morphing into a sort of death-&-roll concoction as they progressed. Clandestine was their second album, and it took the speed and brutality of debut Left Hand Path and added more mid-tempo, thrash metal grooves, with more distinct rock-&-roll song structures. Their Wolverine Blues album, their 3rd, was already one of my favorite metal albums for its sheer massive heaviness and catchiness before purchasing Clandestine, and I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which one I enjoy more, to be honest. Clandestine is by far the more "evil" and "metal" sounding of the two, and in many ways it's a perfect combination of the death-&-roll perfected on WB and the death metal onslaught of LHP.

My Take: Highly recommended for any death and thrash metal fans, although you probably already knew that, as it's widely regarded as an all-time classic, and for good reason.

Standout Tracks: Hard to pick standouts on an album that contains literally zero filler material, but here are my favorites of the bunch - "Living Dead," "Evilyn" (simply for the Masters of the Universe reference in the name...), "Stranger Aeons" (which later appeared on 1997's Entombed album), "Crawl"

Satyricon hail from the mighty frostbitten forests of unholy doomy demonic NORWAY!!! and are, of course, a Norwegian black metal band widely regarded as pioneers and masters of the scene. Their current material, much like Entombed, has taken on a much more rock-&-roll slant, to which many fans have resented and labeled the band sellouts. While I am a fan of the band's earlier black metal work, in particular the majestic Nemesis Divina, their current material is still well-written, catchy as hell metal in this writer's humble opinion. Rebel Extravaganza was an album written in the sort of "in-between" period for the band, in that it began to showcase their more industrial and rock-&-roll influences, while still maintaining a solid black metal base.

Satyr's nasty vocal croak is in full effect, and the album's production only further emphasizes how truly wicked this man can sound. Let's not forget the riffs. The clever usage of harmonics, tremelo picking, and punkish chord progressions keep this album interesting throughout, something that sometimes got lost on Nemesis Divina. The alternating structures also highlight even further the fact that drummer Frost is one of the best metal drummers on the planet (a fact sadly hidden by the band's more simplistic material nowadays, some say). This is by far Satyricon's most diverse release, and that can either be good or bad, depending on what you expect from your black metal bands.

My Take: In my opinion, Satyricon had mastered the "Second Wave" of black metal sound (also perfected by Emperor on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk) on ND, and this album was a necessary bridge towards the monster they have become today. The lack of keyboards, emphasis on the raw power of the music, and overall visual concept of the layout took the band in another direction -- a direction that I view as a complete artistic success.

Standout Tracks: "Filthgrinder", "Havoc Vulture", "Supersonic Journey", "Tied in Bronze Chains"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Matt Steele's Top 10 Albums of All-Time - #1!

I made a list of my top 10 favorite albums ever back in June, and my intention was to write a review for each of albums individually. Anyone who has read this blog knows that the combination of being extremely busy on top of being extremely lazy hasn't made me the most prolific writer as of late. I did however discover that I had written a review for one of the albums on this top 10 list, so I will post that review now. And I promise, the review of Jupiter by Cave In is coming this week. Until then, here's my favorite album of all time...

(Before you say anything, yes, I realize that most Top-10 lists start with 10 and work their way up, but I don't really care. The other 9 are always changing to be honest. My #1 is one of the only few constants every time I make a new list, so deal with it...)

1) MetallicaRide the Lightning

An album that has already been on hundreds of Top 10s and 100s is hard to review without coming across as derivative and repetitive, but there was no way I could not review this album for my top ten list. Instead of trying to review the impact that this album had on the thrash metal genre and the massive growth Metallica showed following the relatively straight-forward Kill ‘Em All, I’ll get personal with the impact this album had on my life. No, I was not around for the “glory days” of thrash metal (Okay, I was around, but I was not going to have my mom take me to see the Clash of the Titans tour when I was six years old, come on). That’s right, I was a little over a year old when this album was released on November 16, 1984, and no, I was not a Metallica fan at the time. Hell, I was only six years old when Metallica (aka The Black Album) came out in 1991. That album and its subsequent five hit singles were the first real exposure I had to Metallica, aside from maybe seeing the “One” video a couple of times back in 1988. I had no idea they would become not only my favorite band, but a gateway to some of the most intense, heaviest music I would ever hear in my life.

I first heard Ride the Lightning in the summer of 1996, shortly after the release of the controversial Load, which some would argue is more than appropriately titled. At that point in time I had heard The Black Album numerous times after stealing the tape from my older brother, and I could not get enough of it. The day Load came out it was purchased for me by my mother and grandmother. Although surprised by the change in direction from The Black Album, I enjoyed the album tremendously. Keep in mind I had just finished the sixth grade in which I spent most of my time listening to the mainstream “rock” of Hootie and the Blowfish and The Presidents of the United States of America. My thirst for more Metallica was only beginning to grow. Around the same time a friend of mine was also developing a heavy interest in Metallica, and his cousin had given him tapes of some of their earlier material. The first of those tapes that he brought to my house was Ride the Lightning.

From the beginning of “Fight Fire with Fire,” I was absolutely hooked. The beautiful classical-style guitar intro that gave way into arguably the heaviest, fastest riff I had ever heard in my life at that point left a large imprint on my young, impressionable mind. I started laughing at how fast and brutal the music was, something I still do to this day when I hear something utterly ridiculous (in a good way, kind of like the first time I heard Cryptopsy) and mind-blowing. I could give a track-by-track review, but it’s all been said before. From the stomp of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (still probably my favorite Metallica track ever) to the dark beauty of “Fade to Black” and “The Call of Ktulu,” to the absolutely massive “Creeping Death,” I could not believe my ears. The musicianship, arrangements, diversity, and aggression of Ride the Lightning were impressive to me then, and have only grown more impressive to me now, almost ten years after hearing the album for the first time. This album is the reason I listen to heavy metal. This album is the reason I play guitar. This album is the reason Metallica is my favorite band of all-time. For me, this is the album, hands down.